Damien Wright, the New Zealand bowling coach, knows Bellerive Oval intimately. As the leading first-class wicket-taker at the venue, he is well aware of how hard it is for batsmen in the morning. Six wickets fell before lunch on each of the first two days, and seven in the opening session on the third day. New Zealand need a similar start on Monday if they are to win a Test in Australia for the first time since 1985.
After they closed the second day in a strong position thanks to outstanding bowling from Chris Martin, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell, New Zealand lost their advantage on Sunday. They set Australia 241 for victory, a challenging but not unreachable target, and then struggled to find the same rhythm with the ball that they had in the first innings, leaving Australia at 0 for 72.
"We have to turn up tomorrow and start really well with the ball," Wright said. "There's been a little bit of assistance in the wicket throughout the game. We know that's going to be there in the morning. Bellerive traditionally over the years always offers a little bit in the morning. It's really important for us to come tomorrow and break this partnership, to start with, and take early wickets. There's a little bit of variable bounce and we're hoping that plays a part in the morning.
"The guys bowled really, really well [in the first innings]. All four of them did a great job. Unfortunately in this innings we certainly haven't started the way we would have like to. We've been a bit off our lengths and overpitched a little bit. We need to look at the stuff that we did in the first innings and stick to that plan. Hopefully in the morning the guys can come and do that."
In the first innings, New Zealand rarely sent down a bad delivery, building the pressure with accuracy, swing and seam movement. Especially professional was the way Martin bowled to plan against Phillip Hughes, who has struggled with the ball moving across him and has edged to the cordon three times already in the series.
On day three, Martin didn't quite find the right spot to Hughes, often bowling too straight or too full; a few more cuttable balls might have tested Hughes more. But things won't get any easier for Australia's openers in the morning after two ball changes late in the day due to the Kookaburras losing their shape: the one that New Zealand ended up with swung more than either of the others.
"They had to change a couple up in Brisbane in the first Test as well," Wright said. "Generally the Kookaburra ball is a good ball. I think conditions out there were just a bit wet and maybe the ball got a bit damp and maybe went out of shape a little bit. There were no complaints about the cricket balls. But this one is swinging, so let's hope we keep this one."
Only 53.3 overs were bowled on the third day due to rain, but those overs that were completed couldn't have gone much better for Australia. Kane Williamson fell early in the day and New Zealand lost their final seven wickets for 87 runs, Peter Siddle and James Pattinson finishing with three wickets each, while Nathan Lyon also picked up three when he ran through the tail.
"We came feeling that we were in front in the game," Wright said. "For us it was important to build a substantial lead and make Australia chase anything from 280-plus. We've got 240 and that's not saying we don't feel confident that we can defend that, but we just haven't started well enough with the ball."
Australia's vice-captain Brad Haddin described the efforts of Siddle in the first session as "world-class". He said Australia had been intent on building pressure on New Zealand early in order to break into the lower order, and by the close of the day Australia found themselves in a strong position to push for victory.
"Day three is always a massive day in a Test match," Haddin said. "I thought the way we presented ourselves in the first session was world-class after being a bit flat going into the last session yesterday. I thought what we did with the ball was top shelf and we spoke about the first 10 to 15 overs out there batting, it is tough work and I think the guys did a fantastic job to get us into the position we did."